Friday, March 16, 2012

PH dros heartbreaking loss

SO close.

The  Philippines was 10 minutes away from a historic finals appearance when disaster struck and a couple of defensive errors led to two late goals in its 2-1 loss to Turkmenistan in the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup.

What’s worse, Neil Etheridge got sent off for a red card in injury time and will sit out Monday’s battle for third place against the loser of the North Korea and Palestine match, which was being played at press time.

The Philippines started brilliantly and Phil Younghusband had an early shot in the 8th, before Turkmenistan had three quick chances in the ninth, 11th and 13th minute. 

In the 17th, Phil forced a corner and had a weak volley from a Juani Guirado throw-in in the 25th.

But a minute later, Phil connected with a Paul Mulders cross, heading the ball past Rahmanberdi Alyhanovfor the first goal of the match. 

The Philippines had two more great chances but Phil hit just wide in the 33rd, and in the ensuing corner, Roy Jonsson was stopped by the keeper.

In the second half, it was a different story. 

Turkmenistan, which finished runner-up to North Korea in the 2010 edition of the tournament, controlled the tempo while the Philippines played defensively.  Phil rarely had a chance and when he did, the Turkmenistan defense was getting frisky, sending the Loyola Meralco Sparks striker tumbling. 

In the 66th, Coach Michael Weiss sent Lexton Moy for Misagh Bahadoran and four minutes later, pulled out Chieffy Caligdong for defender Roel Gener, a gamble that would fail later in the game.

In the 80th, a weak pass by Marwin Angeles was collected by Arslanmyrat Amanov and he fired a wicked low shot past Etheridge for the equalizer.  Five minutes later, Gener lost possession near the rear flank, allowing Gahryman Chonkayev to rifle home the game-winner.

The Philippines pressed for the equalizer but was hampered by the delaying tactics of Turkmenistan and Etheridge was red-carded, though his offense wasn’t obvious.

Since the Philippines had used up all three substitutions, Global FC defender Carli de Murga wore Etheridge’s shirt and had his spell at goal and even managed two saves in less than four minutes of action. 

The loss mirrored the semifinal loss of the Azkals against powerhouse Indonesia in the 2010 Suzuki Cup but unlike that tournament, the team will have a chance to redeem itself in Monday’s battle for third place.

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